The Mental Illness–Chemical Dependency Link

Mental illness and chemical dependency can go hand in hand

Approximately 80% of the women Wayside serves have a mental health issue. To meet this need for co-occurring treatment, we have developed internal expertise in addressing both simultaneously.

Women with a mental health problem are more likely to become chemically dependent. For many women, alcohol and/or drugs serve as a coping mechanism, but one that can quickly lead to serious consequences. It is critical to receive treatment for both illnesses. This is especially true for women, as a greater percentage of women are struggling with both illnesses compared to men.

Common mental health disorders of substance abusers

The most common mental health disorders that co-occur with substance abuse are anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In all of these cases, exposure to trauma and/or exposure to chemicals alters the brain chemistry. This produces symptoms in response to stressors in the environment. For women, this can mean that normal, everyday stress can lead to anxiety or other mood disorder symptoms, including the need to use chemicals in order to cope.

In some cases, substance abuse may come first, and cause mental health symptoms; in other cases, mental health conditions can lead to the desire to self-medicate using chemicals. It is often impossible to determine which is the primary issue when a woman has co-occurring disorders. Therefore, the best treatment addresses both types of disorders concurrently. This is what we do.

Treating mental illness and substance abuse concurrently

It is not uncommon for women in other treatment settings to address either their chemical health or their mental health. However, this often means letting a primary issue go unaddressed and puts long-term recovery at risk. Our team of staff are experts in treating both chemical dependency and mental health problems.

Do you want to learn more about mental illness? NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is an expert on the subject. Check NAMI's website at


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Friday, February 23, 2018

Fire Up or Burn Out!

As professionals, we are exposed to stress and trauma each day. Clients come to us for help and share with us extreme pain and shame. We must know how to deal with it, dissipate it and be balanced. In this presentation, we will discuss how the brain processes stress, review the self-care wheel, and implement the three principles to diffuse secondary trauma.

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